Bill Ware's Original Score for The Spanish Dancer

On August 29, 2023, Kino Lorber released a restoration of The Spanish Dancer on BluRay, featuring a new score by Bill Ware.

FROM KINO LORBER: Pola Negri (The Wildcat) was already an international star. Antonio Moreno (The Searchers) was her equal in terms of talent and sex appeal. The director Herbert Brenon (Beau Geste) was one of the greatest directors of his day and he was assisted by his cinematographer, James Wong Howe (Hud). Together, they created one of the great romance epics of the silent era.

Restored by Eye Filmmuseum, The Spanish Dancer (1923) is a joy to behold. The film is action-packed, witty, and romantic with huge sets and a cast of thousands. Brenon keeps the adventure going full steam ahead while Negri and Moreno show why they were huge stars of their day. Includes a new orchestral score by Bill Ware! 

 Here are Bill’s own words, describing his approach to the score:

In creating the score for The Spanish Dancer, I found myself with a rare opportunity to create a musical composition that provides the complete sonic palette for a full-length feature silent film. I wanted to bring a modern movie sensibility with multiple layers of sounds woven into my score. The sound palette combines period instruments like harpsichord, and exotic instruments like the oud, with Romani-gypsy themes and elements of jazz that surprise the audience and enhance the comedic drama of this wonderful film.

Read the full Composer Notes by clicking below.

The Music – both underscoring and source music — are built upon a set of Bill’s compositions from his archive. The score matches characters in the film with musical instruments that evoke their emotions and articulate their expressions musically.

“The scene is a show-stopper or dance-stopper, with each new revelation in closeup punctuated by a long shot of more swirling and whirling dancers, who pause for her to lay down the next card. The modern score by Bill Ware, with its unusual timbres, contributes to the effect…”  — Michael Barrett, PopMatters


“The Spanish Dancer has a delightful new orchestral score by Bill Ware. He is a jazz vibraphonist that has collaborated with Steely Dan, John Zorn, Deborah Harry, the BBC Concert Orchestra, Elvis Costello, Arturo O’Farrill, Andy Summers, Pink Floyd’s David Gilmore among others. The score was very supportive, frequently subtle, without attempting to supersede the film – I enjoyed it very much via the lossless transfer. Wonderful moods.” — Gary Tooze, DVD Beaver


“Featuring a terrific modern jazz score by Bill Ware that is (unlike some scores) sensitive to every shift in movement and tone the film presents, not only are the dance scenes invigorating and dazzling, but they contribute directly to the plot and character development as they play out. […] The quality of the music’s delivery is sharp, with a strong dimensionality. A good 22-minute interview with Ware is included in which he explains his compositional process and reflects upon the qualities of the film.” DVD Newsletter


“The feature is accompanied by a new score from composer Bill Ware, who employs a very eclectic style; although he explains in a video interview (also on the disk) that he considered but declined the idea of giving the music a jazz inflection, I find considerable jazziness (with echoes of Miles Davis’s classic Sketches of Spain, appropriately enough) among the elements of the score, which has little resemblance to anything audiences would have heard when the movie was new.” — David Sterrit, TandFonline


Excerpt of The Spanish Dancer - jazz scene

Bill Ware Presents a Live Jazz Concert with Film Screening

The August 2023 release of the 1923 silent film, The Spanish Dancer by Kino Lorber, includes a new score by Bill Ware.  To celebrate the release of this stunning film, Bill Ware is pleased to offer presenters a unique project that pairs a screening of the film with a live set of jazz music to be performed before or after the screening, featuring several musicians who play on the score.

The artists featured on the score include John Murchison who plays the oud, with its exotic and mellow tone, to evoke the strength, beauty, and independence of Maritana, the Gypsy band leader, fortune teller and star of The Spanish Dancer. Steven Bernstein on trumpets represents the voice of Bazan with a variety of timbres, using slide trumpet and occasionally mute. The court characters are represented by a grouping of virtual woodwind instruments (plugins by Native Instruments) that are intentionally piercing and annoying. In some scenes, Steven and Sam Bardfeld on solo violin give a voice to the young apprentice, and Sam and Sara Wollan on cello are used, along with additional virtual string instruments to portray drama in emotional and suspenseful scenes. John Wechsler’s flute is a dominating instrument in the source music, and Rez Abbasi’s electric guitar provides an out of worldly vibe in occasional scenes, as Bill’s nod to Ennio Morricone’s iconic spaghetti westerns scores. Philip Mayer’s middle eastern percussion provides an exotic flavor throughout the score, and Bobby Previte’s drum set provides swing for the bizarre baroque jazz set at Bazan’s castle and action throughout the festival of Madonna scene. Rhythmic clapping and a sample of Kazu Kumagai’s tap dancing represents the gypsy band and brass choirs are used for the royalty in entry calls.

The live jazz concert will feature the following musicians:

Bill Ware (vibraphone)

Rez Abbasi (guitar)

Sam Bardfeld (violin)

Steven Bernstein (trumpets)

Bobby Previte (drums)

John Murchison (bass and oud)